South African Wildlife art


The African Leopard (Panthera pardus)

One of Matthew Bell’s most intricate South African wildlife art pieces, is the great leopard above. Leopards are part of the large cat family, and are listed on the vulnerable list. What separates them from smaller cats to fit into this category, is the ability to roar. For example, the cheetah is also a very large wild cat, but it is categorised separately because it cannot roar at all, only growl.  The African Leopard is found most commonly along the Eastern Cape of South Africa. It is also found in other parts of Northern Africa.



The African Leopard has few enemies. Hands down their largest enemy is the human being, hunting them for their coats, claws, teeth, aphrodisiacs and other trophies. Second in line would be the African Lion, as these cats are the largest of all and travel in packs. The leopard, who is a sole traveller, has next to no chance competing with lions. Even though leopards can climb trees to hide, lions can also climb, just not always as far up.


South African wildlife art


Another massive leopard threat, is the African Hyena, the wild dog of the bushveld. Although far smaller than the leopard, these dogs too, travel in packs. Not only will they always outnumber the leopard, but as scavengers, they will do almost anything to steal and claim their meal. A fully-grown leopard is no match to get in the way of their food, of which, a baby leopard is rarely off the menu. The African Wild Dog’s jaws will crush a leopards bones if seen as a threat to them.

Other adult leopards trying to take over their habitats also pose a great threat. Because lush areas, ideal for hunting, aren’t always in abundance. Any other leopard in its territory is a threat. Leopards will fight or intimidate until one leaves, the victor remarking the area with their scent.

South African Wildlife art


Leopards are well-known for their ability to both gracefully, yet brutally kill their prey. They are stalk and pounce hunters, and will rarely attempt something they are unsure will result in a successful meal. When an attempt is unsuccessful, they will rarely pounce again to try the same prey twice. When desperate or a novice hunter, leopards will settle for small creatures such as, but not limited to, the African Dung-beetle, mice and wild hare. Though when more powerful and larger prey is available, the leopard will prey on warthogs, buck, baby giraffes, antelope and other creatures.


Breeding habits

Female leopards will release a scent when she is ready to mate with potential male leopards. Each mating ritual lasts for about 3 seconds in intervals of around 5 minutes. This continues for a few days, to ensure the leopard conceives. As cats of solidarity, after mating takes place the leopards will both go their separate ways. Females usually give birth to around one to 3 cubs. However, some cases of one cub to four have been recorded. On average, cubs have about a 50% chance at survival. At the age of about 20 months, the mother will force them to leave and fend for themselves.


View more South African wildlife art, by Matthew Bell

To view more South African wildlife art, please feel free to head on over to the gallery on the home page. Here you can view both original pencil art and prints :

To get to know the pencil artist a little better, head over to the Q&A page at:

south african wildlife artistEuropean Bee-eater (Merops apiaster

Contrary to its name, the European Bee-eater bird is also found in parts of Northern and Southern Africa. The European Bee-eater is actually just one type out of 27 other incredible species worldwide. 20 of which can be spotted in Africa, one being the European Bee-eater. So how can you spot this particular species? One of many things which makes this bird so unique, are the variety of coloured feathers which it boasts. As one can see in the drawing above, by South African wildlife artist, Matthew Bell, this species is one of the most colourful birds in the entire world. This species in particular, has brown, orange and yellow upper parts, with green winged feathers and a black beak.

“I love drawing birds, especially the brightly coloured ones…”


Do they only eat bees?

Although given the name “Bee-eater,” these birds tend to eat other insects as well, rather than a diet consisting only of honey and bumble-bees. As their preferred bee cuisine is not always available, they will also eat grasshoppers, wasps, butterflies and other in-flight prey. The European Bee-eater hunts from a perch, nestled patiently, waiting to swoop down or dart upward for its next meal. Each bird has to consume over 200 bees daily, or its mass equivalent in other insects.


What’s even more interesting than what they consume, is how they consume it

When the Bee-eater does come across its ideal prey, the method in which they prep their meal is very clean-cut. This brightly coloured bird removes each bee’s stinger first, almost surgically, before gulping it down whole. It does so in the most precise order, knocking the bee from side to side on its perching spot, until it becomes entirely severed from the bee’s body. Rather difficult to assume from something so colourful and cute, right? It’s just one more reason this bird is so intriguing to watch.


south african wildlife artist

Habitat and nesting

The European Bee-eater is most commonly found in warm, dry climates, usually a far stretch away from any wet landscape. In Africa, this consists mainly of Savanna or sheltered valleys with plenty trees to perch upon. Most often, you will find their nests in holes in the ground, such as the sides of old water banks or sand quarries. Apart from being timid around people, they are hugely social creatures which live in large flocks rather than in solitude. Although, most European Bee-eaters remain only with one partner until death.

“I am a very keen birdwatcher as well, so I’ve always had a special fascination with birds. I find bringing them to life in my drawings is always very pleasing!”


View more from South African Wildlife artist, Matthew Bell

To view more pieces from this African wildlife artist, please feel free to head on over to the gallery on the home page. Here you can view both original pencil art and prints :

To get to know the pencil artist a little better, head over to the Q&A page at:

african wildlife

The African Wild Dog (Lycaon pictus)

Unlike the Big Five, the African Wild Dog is definitely one of the less spoken about African wildlife animals. However, they are also one of the world’s most endangered carnivores! Wild Dogs are exclusively found in Africa, at only 3000 – 5000 dogs remaining. Wild Dog numbers are increasingly on the decline for numerous reasons.

Why are they so endangered amongst other African wildlife?

Firstly, humans continue to destroy their natural habitats, despite conservation efforts. Habitats are lost due to increasing demand for livestock to graze upon, as well as cultivation due to increased human populations. And when Wild Dogs do cross these habitat boarders, they are also susceptible to rabies and other diseases, often from contact with domesticated dogs!

Another reason a pack’s ideal habitat may become unattainable, is because of predators. Generally, even with ideal habitats filled with an abundance of delightful prey, often the Wild Dogs will still seek territory elsewhere. Why? Because Wild Dogs know better than to risk probable death, all for a spot already claimed by those far higher up on the wildlife food chain. Lions, leopards and Hyenas account for most Wild Dog deaths.

What makes them so unique?

Each and every African Wild Dog looks different. Much like a fingerprint, they have coats unlike any other they will ever encounter. This is one reason they make for highly enjoyable creatures to use as pencil art subjects. South African pencil artist, Matthew Bell, is currently most proud of his Wild Dog drawings, particularly the pencil drawing below.

‘My Wild Dog drawings are some of my best, especially the one with the mother and baby. I love the interaction there and was really happy with the way it turned out.”

african wildlife

What’s their breeding pattern like?

When it comes to the African Wildlife, the way which the African Wild Dog hunts and breeds in quite unique as well. Each pack has their own hunting strategy, changing it up when required. Although each pack usually has more than one female and male, each pack only has one alpha male and female, and only they will breed to keep the pack alive. However, the alpha female is not the only provider and caregiver, and the pubs are treated like royalty among the pack.

What is their main source of food? How do they hunt for it?

Their main source of food is the African Antelope. When the dogs need to hunt, they hunt separately. A ‘helper’ dog or more will remain with the pups in the den during breeding season. When the rest of the pack returns, they feed the pups and the helper dog in the form of regurgitation. The loyalty between these dogs is remarkable, and their courage to survive to better the lives of each-other should too, be an example for us to live by.

To view more South African wildlife art, please feel free to head on over to the gallery on the home page. Here you can view both original pencil art and prints :

To get to know the South African pencil artist a little better, head over to the Q&A page at: